A Man for All Seasons

Defence of Thomas More
Pages 17-22
Cardinal Wolsey had planned to send a letter to Rome to request for the Pope to agree to King Henry VIII’s divorce. Since Thomas More had violently opposed to that idea, Wolsey sent for him to read the letter first. More thought that Wolsey’s plan was “devious” but Wolsey felt that it was a “devious situation” so he had to use such a “devious” plan to solve it. However, More believed that there was some other simpler way to solve the problem. Wolsey then scolded More for being so moralistic and told him to be more practical instead.
After that, Wolsey asked More how he planned to give the king a male heir. More said that he would “pray for it daily” but Wolsey wanted to “secure a divorce” so that King Henry VIII could marry Anne Boleyn and most likely produce a male heir, which he felt would solve the issue immediately, since he was making the effort to do something, unlike More, who would rather pray for help.
Area of dispute: More believes that it is not right to ask the Pope to dispense with his dispensation of the Christian law (a man cannot marry his brother’s widow) just for state affairs. However, Wolsey places the country’s interests above his own personal conscience as he feels that it is his job to ensure that the king will have a male heir to ascend the throne in future.
Reason to defend Sir Thomas More: More is just thinks that his private conscience is more important than his public duties and will do what he thinks is right, not what is convenient. This is not considered High Treason as More is not attempting to betray his country in any way.
Textual evidence:
More: “Well…I believe, when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties…they lead t...

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...o me, it has to be, for that’s myself! Affection goes as deep in me as you think, but only God is love right through, Howard; and that’s my self.”
More: “And what would you do with a water spaniel that was afraid of water? You’d hang it! Well, as a spaniel is to water, so is a man to his own self.”
How I will use it: The first quote indicates that More will not follow others blindly and betray his conscience nor God because they are his “self”, not someone else’s. The second quote implies that if a water spaniel feared going into the water, it would be pointless for it to continue living since water spaniels were supposed to love being in water. More used this to compare with his conscience. He felt that if he could not stay true to “his own self” or his conscience, there was also no point for him to continue living since his conscience was an integral part of him.
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